barefoot running: the practice

May 21, 2010

My initial plan was to run normally in my running shoes, change shoes, and run for 5 minutes in the huaraches. I did this a few times, but realized that I was tired after my normal run of 3-5 miles, so there were a few runs I didn’t run in the sandals.

My huaraches. Originals in speckle.

One day last week, I felt inspired to take a longer run just in huaraches to see how the shoes affected me (3 miles). The only noticeable change from the short runs had been newer blisters near the tops of my big toes. I wanted to know how the shoes would affect my joints and muscles.

Running in these shoes encourages you to have better form while running. My Dad taught me from a young age to land more on the front of my feet when running, and this is certainly better form for huaraches. Speaking of my Dad, you should have seen his face the first time he saw me running in the sandals.

It is better to run landing near the front of your feet in huaraches mainly because you might scrape your toe if the front of the sandal folds under. One of the thoughts about huaraches (or plain barefoot running) is that people should run in the grass or on a softer surface than asphalt. I often have to move to the grass when cars approach and notice that I actually have to lift my knees higher in the grass because the uneven surface affects the shoes more.

Near the end of my 3-mile run, I did notice some joint pain in my left ankle, which returned again today during another 3-mile run, but a little bit later in the run. The muscles around my left ankle apparently need some building.

What really surprised me was that in the days following the first longer run, the only pain I endured was calf pain for about 2 days. I have high arches, so I thought for sure I would feel a strain there, but I didn’t. My knees, which I have had trouble with before (especially on really long runs), were also unaffected.

I notice while I’m running in huaraches, my knees do lift more, and I feel that I run a bit faster.  I’m really interested in running a 5K in huaraches to see if I can improve my time.

I have only done one 5-minute complete barefoot run, and while things go reasonably well on the asphalt, I get things stuck in my feet when I’m running in the grass. Just for fun, here’s a picture of my foot after a complete barefoot run.

Interested in getting your own huaraches? I highly recommend them. I find that they offer a new way of running. It’s like knowing how to play guitar, switching to another stringed instrument, and then going back to guitar. You work different parts of your body and enjoy learning something new. I find that I run with a lot better posture in my regular running shoes as a result.

You can contact Andrea here if you are interested in purchasing her handmade shoes. Her company is called 8 1/2. That’s the size of our feet.

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One Response to “barefoot running: the practice”

  1. Sarah said

    Nicole,

    If you really want to run barefoot, I recommend running at the beach. It is exhilarating and fun. You can feel you feet touch the soft sand, sink in, and ultimately you must kick higher in order to keep the rotation going. Along the while, keeping in mind to land you foot softly and quick so that you don’t strain yourself!!

    Running on grass is a lot of fun after a long run. Sometimes I find a patch after running at Umstead and kick my feet up a little!! Another trick is doing skips!! Runners call this plyometrics in which you use another muscle! I think it is a fun way to enjoy being fit while bringing the “kid” back into things!

    Miss you!

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